(Book 2: Hello, Can You Fear Me?)
‘You there, I’m placing you under arrest on charges of kidnapping and unlawful detainment. Put your hands behind your head and kneel down.’
Fernandes’ announcement only caused the smile on Abhijit’s face to widen.
‘The situation is quite the opposite of what you imagine, Inspector Fernandes,’ he said. His voice sounded calm, with the hint of a rasp. ‘Surrender yourselves to my power, or I will force you into it.’
Fernandes wrinkled her brows as if asking, ‘How do you know my name?’ Aloud, she said, ‘You are at gunpoint. I will suggest you do not try anything stupid.’
Behind her, one officer was trembling. He dropped the weapon in his hand and knelt. ‘I surrender!’ he said.
‘Good,’ Abhijit told him. ‘Now, the others?’
Fernandes gave her kneeling subordinate a reproachful look, then returned her attention to Abhijit. ‘This is the police. I repeat, you do not want to try anything funny.’
Rehan was next to kneel, lowering Subro onto the floor.
Abhijit looked curiously at him but didn’t offer any commendation.
And rightly so, for the next moment, Rehan withdrew his gun, stood up, and aimed it at Abhijit. ‘Do as she said,’ he announced. ‘Now!‘
‘I gave you a choice,’ Abhijit replied. ‘You chose unwisely.’ He stepped towards Rehan.
‘Stop!’ Rehan and Fernandes ordered at the same time.
Abhijit refused to heed them. He approached Rehan with an almost carefree gait.
The bang of a gunshot sliced through the tense environment. Rehan had fired at Abhijit’s legs. But he seemed to have missed, for the man was still walking as if nothing had happened.
Fernandes also took a shot… and missed as well.
Rehan was a little perplexed now. He raised his gun and fired at Abhijit’s chest, to no effect. Again, and again, and again Rehan fired his weapon until he had unloaded an entire round. But Abhijit simply continued on, a smile now stretched across his face.
Rehan stepped back, fumbling to reload his gun, but Abhijit didn’t give him the chance. Like some wild creature, he lunged and grabbed at the officer’s throat with both hands. Rehan fought the man, trying to push him away, but his strength appeared to fail him.
Abhijit maintained his grip easily, and now Rehan was clawing at his attacker’s arms and face and hair.
A fear gripped at Ravi as it seemed almost certain that the officer he had been riding with was about to bite the dust. He looked around helplessly, wondering if someone, anyone, would stop it.
Just then, more gunshots sounded. Fernandes and the other officers were emptying their rounds at Abhijit, together. ‘STOP!’ they screamed. ‘Get away from him!’
This time Abhijit was distracted. He turned to the three officers, scowling. Withdrawing one hand from Rehan’s throat, he thrust his palm at the air, towards them.
The strength seemed to disappear from under their legs, and the officers collapsed where they had been standing.
With his other hand, Abhijit gripped tighter and there was a distinct snap as Rehan’s neck broke.
‘NO!’ Fernandes screamed in horror.
Yellow sparks erupted from where Abhijit’s fingers curled around Rehan’s throat. They spread over the dead officer’s body, engulfing him. Abhijit let the flaming body drop to the floor, the flames starting to crackle.
‘Ah, I underestimated my own power,’ Abhijit remarked. ‘Now, I ask you again. Will you surrender? Or will you join him?’
The officer who’d knelt was trembling. ‘I surrender, I surrender,’ he cried.
The others remained silent. Madhu had vomited on the temple floor. Ravi felt bile tickling at his own throat.
Abhijit shrugged. He waved his hands about, muttering under his breath, as if performing a ritualistic dance. Suddenly, bright yellow strings sprouted out of his fingertips.
There were gasps all around.
Ravi recognised the golden threads as the same ones that had captured the ghosts at Niranjan Theatre, and later at the temple this morning. I can see them without the Captura? he wondered.
The twines growing out of Abhijit’s fingers thickened into glowing cords that whipped at everyone present, coiling around them. Ravi felt a whirring vibration where one bound him around his waist and arms and legs. He tried to fight, but the bonds reacted, gripping him tighter until he relented.
Abhijit tugged at the whips and his victims were lifted off of their feet like puppets. A clattering announced the separation of guns, torches, a walking stick and the Captura from their owners.
With a simple flourish of his hands, Abhijit hurled everyone towards the side walls. Then the yellow strings detached from his fingers, and the unused lengths wound around his victims as well, securing them.
‘Now, we can begin,’ he commented as the struggles of his victims were put to rest by the magical restraints. He resumed his position at the center, sitting by the Echorder, and closed his eyes, drawing in a deep breath. Then he began to mutter again; under his breath at first, but raising his voice gradually.
To one side, Rehan’s body burnt on. The smell of cooked meat was growing stronger in the air.